We explain what criminal law is and what its three aspects are. In addition, its general characteristics and why it is proportional.

What is Criminal Law?

Criminal Law is a branch of Internal Public Law. It can be considered a scientific discipline as it is a systematic set of principles . Refers to: crimes, penalties, security measures.

The objective is the creation of social order and its preservation , through the imposition of sanctions to avoid behaviors that are considered dangerous (crimes).

A means of social control is defined as a set of cultural models and symbols that are determined and applied through a set of acts. Criminal law is one of the means of control that the State has to overcome social tensions and conflicts.

Although criminal law may seem like a modern concept, various societies and civilizations throughout history have had rules similar to those established by criminal law. The Law of Talion (an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth) or Roman law are some examples of the evolution that criminal law has undergone throughout history.

Characteristics of Criminal Law :

  1. Public


The sanction is not imposed in response to the interest of the person harmed by the crime, but rather in the interest of the community. For this reason, the penalty can only be imposed by the State , that is to say that criminal law is a means of control monopolized by the State . It does not deal with the relationship between individuals but with the relationship between the sovereign state and individuals.

  1. Has three aspects

  • Target. As a set of legal-criminal rules. They establish a civil liability derived from the crime. Therefore, the application of criminal law presupposes the crime as a fact, whose legitimate consequence is the penalty or the security measure.
  • Subjective.  As the right of the State to sanction, “Ius Puniendo”. The power of the State to create and apply sanctions to those who violate these legal-criminal rules (Objective Criminal Law). This power is exercised through Primary Criminalization (determination of the behaviors to be punished) and Secondary Criminalization (application of penalties).
  • Scientific.  As a doctrine, the Science of Criminal Law is the discipline that systematically interprets and studies the current Objective Criminal Law.

  1. Punitive


Legal assets are created by other legal systems other than Criminal Law, but the latter is responsible for protecting these legal systems through the imposition of penalties . That is why it is called accessory and secondary in relation to the branches of law that create legal rights.

  1. Discontinuous

It does not provide for state intervention in all situations, but rather specifies which conducts are penalized (those that are most dangerous for the assets it protects). That is why Criminal Law is considered evaluative, because by selecting the most dangerous behaviors, it gives importance to its harmful nature.

  1. Conduct regulator

conduct regulator

It only deals with the actions of people that exceed their thought , those that manifest themselves outside of the person . In other words, Criminal Law does not deal with the field of thought .

What is punished are acts or accomplished facts . Only when an action has been committed can it be punished and criminal law can never be applied to a person for the ideas they have.

  1. “Ultimate Ratio”

Criminal law functions as the last legal instance that sanctions a behavior, that is to say that its intervention becomes necessary to penalize the most dangerous behaviors , before which no other State intervention is effective.

  1. Cultural


The conception of what a crime is depends on each culture , which is why Criminal Law does not sanction the same actions in all countries , and is even modified over time in the same State.

  1. Normative

A norm determines the behaviors that are permitted and those that are prohibited . By pointing out the behaviors that will be sanctioned, Criminal Law is normative since it defines what is prohibited.

  1. Finalist


It has a specific objective, a collective purpose, it can be to maintain social order, ensure the well-being of the community , guarantee justice , etc.

The main objective of criminal law is to protect society from behaviors that may harm it. For this , punishments imposed on anyone who breaks the laws are used . In addition, these punishments also have a preventive function, since although they cannot revoke actions already committed, they can serve to prevent possible future infractions.

  1. Very personal

It exclusively punishes the people who committed the infraction, that is to say that the penalty cannot be extended to their descendants or to any other person. In addition, the person responsible cannot be replaced by another in serving the sentence.

  1. Proportionality


Criminal law is based on the principle of proportionality, that is, the sanctions or punishments applied must be consistent with the crimes committed . In addition, the principle of minimum intervention is applied in a similar way, which says that in order to apply a sentence, the crime or misdemeanor committed must be serious and the least serious possible sentence that is appropriate to the crime must always be applied.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from technology experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


Luke is passionate about fostering student involvement and connection. He studied psychology for his major and likes learning about the past. Luke aims to specialize in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. .

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *